Bernie Ecclestone has issued another warning to British Grand Prix supporters, again suggesting that the race will disappear from the Formula One calendar if nothing is done about the state of Silverstone's facilities.

According to Britain's Mail on Sunday newspaper, Ecclestone has called on the government to bail out the event by helping to fund the redevelopment of the circuit in time for him to renew the contract with the British Racing Drivers' Club. Silverstone has a deal to host the grand prix until 2009, but is under threat from the growing number of new countries clamouring to host a round of the world championship, and could join the likes of Imola on the sidelines if the facelift is delayed any longer.

The San Marino Grand Prix dropped off the F1 calendar this season, despite its ageing pit-lane being razed to the ground in an effort to update, while Magny-Cours will be missing next year after the French federation voluntarily withdrew the race to get its house in order. Germany has already been forced to reduce its number of races to one, with the annual grand prix now alternating between Nurburgring and Hockenheim, while Ecclestone has added the fresh fields of Abu Dhabi and Singapore, and a second Spanish race in Valencia, to the schedule.

"The government could - and should - do something to help ensure the BRDC does not lose the F1 event," F1's commercial guru insisted, for once switching the point of attack away from the BRDC itself, "We are supposed to be the home of motorsport and yet all the other countries around the world have managed to build circuits to be proud of when you see them on television. Britain has not and it is not my fault.

"The government is bringing the Olympics here because they say the Games will help generate a great amount of money ultimately for the country. Perhaps they could loan some of that to Silverstone to be repaid when the new circuit is making a lot of money."

Despite buying a stake in the Turkish GP venue at Istanbul Park and offering to promote the Belgian Grand Prix, Ecclestone has always shied away from taking up the reins at his home event. However, the 76-year old admits that he is keen for Britain - allegedly a host with 'protected' status - to remain on the schedule.

"Silverstone knew this was a five-year deal and I have never pulled the wool over anyone's eyes," he insisted, "They know what is wanted, but they don't have a lot of time left. I hope they get their act together. If someone comes up with an agreement, we want there to be a British Grand Prix after 2009. But, if we cannot strike a deal, there are a lot of countries desperate to have a race."

Having turned down a purchase offer from Spectre Developments, insisting that Silverstone is not for sale, the BRDC insists that it is pressing ahead with its 'Master Plan', the project designed to redevelop the venue in order to retain the grand prix. Commercial ventures on land around the circuit are in the pipeline with a view to raising the capital to update the infrastructure as demanded by Ecclestone, but no firm details have yet been released and no timetable set in stone.

 

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